Summary Cell-surface multiprotein complexes are synthesized in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), where they undergo cotranslational membrane integration and assembly. The quality control mechanisms that oversee these processes remain poorly understood. We show that less hydrophobic transmembrane (TM) regions derived from several single-pass TM proteins can enter the ER lumen completely. Once mislocalized, they are recognized by the Hsp70 chaperone BiP. In a detailed analysis for one of these proteins, the αβT cell receptor (αβTCR), we show that unassembled ER-lumenal subunits are rapidly degraded, whereas specific subunit interactions en route to the native receptor promote membrane integration of the less hydrophobic TM segments, thereby stabilizing the protein. For the TCR α chain, both complete ER import and subunit assembly depend on the same pivotal residue in its TM region. Thus, membrane integration linked to protein assembly allows cellular quality control of membrane proteins and connects the lumenal ER chaperone machinery to membrane protein biogenesis.